Charlie Fowlkes (16 February 1916 – 9 February 1980) was an American baritone saxophonist, best known for his time withCount Basie, which lasted for more than twenty-five years. Charlie Fowlkes was born in New York, and studiedalto and tenor saxophone, clarinet, and violinbefore settling on the baritone sax (he also played occasional flute). He spent most of his early career in New York, playing with Tiny Bradshaw (1938–1944), Lionel Hampton(1944–1948), and Arnett Cobb (1948–1951). This pattern of work was unusual for a jazz musician at the time; sidemen generally moved rapidly between bands, but Fowlkes had a sense of loyalty that kept him with bands for much longer periods.
This was nowhere more evident than in his relationship with Count Basie. After joining Basie’s orchestra in 1953, Fowlkes stayed with it until his death, with a short break in the 1940s for World War II (and the occasional absence occasioned by the career of his wife, the singer Wini Brown, whose manager he was). (Note: It can’t be, as someone posted, that Fowlkes joined the band in 1953, but took a “short break” in the 1940s.) Charlie Fowlkes was the low-end foundation of the Basie band. Just listen to the Basie numbers, when Fowlkes was present, and you’ll hear his low end presence—something that added importantly and richly to the Basied “sound.”